Previous Lives of Jala-vahana’s Fish Disciples

“Moreover, O noble goddess, as Jala-vahana the merchant’s son made all beings in the kingdom of King Sureshvara-prabha without illness or with merely small illness, their bodies were endowed with strength and delight as before. All beings in the kingdom of King Sureshvara-prabha rejoiced, played, enjoyed themselves, gave gifts and engaged in virtuous deeds. They honored and celebrated Jala-vahana the merchant’s son with these words: ‘May Jala-vahana the merchant’s son be victorious! May he be victorious! The king of medicine, he healed all beings of disease. Surely he must be a bodhisattva! He has mastered the entire eightfold treatise on medical science.’

“O noble goddess, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son had a wife called Jalambu-garbha. O noble goddess, Jalambu-garbha his wife had two sons. One was called Jalambara; the other was called Jala-garbha. Then, O noble goddess, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son together with his two sons visited villages, cities, towns, valleys, regions and royal palaces. On another occasion, O noble goddess, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son went to a forest wilderness. There in the forest wilderness, he saw flesh eating dogs, wolves, jackals, flocks of crows and other birds all heading in the direction of Atavi-sambhava, the forest pool. And Jala-vahana wondered: ‘Why are these flesh eating dogs, wolves, jackals, flocks of crows and other birds heading in that direction?’ He thought: ‘I should go in the direction where the dogs, wolves, jackals, crows and other birds are running.’ O noble goddess, then Jala-vahana the merchant’s son gradually headed for Atavi-sambhava, the forest pool.

“In that great pool there lived ten thousand fish. There he saw that numerous hundreds of fish were bereft of water. He felt great compassion for those fish. The moment he generated that thought, he saw a goddess emerging from a tree with just half her body. The goddess said this to Jala-vahana, the merchant’s son: ‘Excellent! Excellent, O child of noble family! Since you are called Jala-vahana, Water Bringer, give water to these fish. You are called Jala-vahana on two counts – bringing water and giving water. Therefore, live up to your name.’ Jala-vahana asked, ‘O goddess, how many fish are there?’ The goddess said, ‘There are a full ten thousand.’ Then, O noble goddess, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son was overcome with great compassion.

“At that time, O noble goddess, in Atavi-sambhava the forest pool there was only a little water left. Without water, the ten thousand fish were dying and thrashing frantically about. Then, O noble goddess, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son ran in the four directions. In whichever direction Jala-vahana the merchant’s son ran, in that direction those ten thousand fish wretchedly looked. O noble goddess, although he ran in the four directions in search of water, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son did not find water there. He looked in the four directions and saw many tall trees not far away. He climbed those trees and cut their branches. Taking the branches to the pool, he built cooling shade for those ten thousand fish.

“After this, O noble goddess, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son went searching for water to channel into the pool. He ran in the four directions, thinking, ‘From where could water come?’ But he could not find any water. Very quickly, he followed the stream. Then, O noble goddess, he came to a great river called Jala-gama, from which water in the pool of that forest wilderness came. He saw that the river had been made to flow into a chasm by an evil man wishing to starve those ten thousand fish of water and eat them later. He thought: ‘Since this river cannot be diverted even by one thousand men, how much less could I alone make it flow back?’ With this thought, he returned to the pool.

“Then, O noble goddess, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son went quickly to where King Sureshvara-prabha was. Paying homage with his head at the feet of King Sureshvara-prabha, he sat down on one side and gave this account: ‘In Your Majesty’s kingdom, I have relieved the diseases of beings in every village, city and town. In one place, there is a pool called Atavi-sambhava. In that pool, ten thousand fish are without water and are scorched by the sun. Just as I have given to humans, so I seek by all means to give life to beings with animal rebirths. I request Your Majesty to give me twenty elephants.’ Then King Sureshvara-prabha gave this order to his ministers: ‘Give twenty elephants to this king of doctors.’ And the ministers said: ‘Go to the elephant house. Take twenty elephants. Help and bring happiness to beings.’

“Then, O noble goddess, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son, along with his two sons Jalambara and Jala-garbha, taking twenty elephants and a hundred ox leather bags, returned to where the great river Jala-gama flows. They filled the bags with water, put them on the elephants’ backs and sped away to the forest wilderness where the pool Atavi-sambhava was. They took the bags from the back of the elephants and filled the pool with water. They walked about in the four directions. Wherever Jala-vahana the merchant’s son went, those ten thousand fish followed after him.

“Then, O noble goddess, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son had this thought, ‘Why are these ten thousand fish following after me?’ Then it occurred to him, ‘No doubt these ten thousand fish are tortured by the fire of hunger and are seeking food from me. I should give them food.’

“Then, O noble goddess, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son said this to his son, Jalambara: ‘O son, ride the fastest of all the elephants and go quickly to my home. Bring this message to your grandfather the merchant and say: “Grandfather, Jala-vahana says: ‘Whatever food may be ready in this house for parents, brothers, sisters, male and female servants or workers, make it into one packet, put it on Jalambara’s elephant and send him quickly to Jala-vahana.’”

“Then the boy Jalambara rode the elephant and went, running fast, to his father’s house. There, he relayed the message to his grandfather in detail. Then the boy Jalambara put the food on the elephant’s back and returned to the pool Atavi-sambhava. Delighted to see his son, Jala-vahana received the food. He chopped it into pieces, threw it into the pool and thus satisfied those ten thousand fish. Then he had this thought, ‘At another time, from a bhikshu in forest solitude reciting Mahayana texts, I heard that anyone who hears the name of the Tathagata Ratna-shikhin at the time of death will be reborn in the higher states. I should teach the profound teaching of dependent origination and pronounce the name of Buddha Ratna-shikhin, the Tathagata, the Arhat, the Fully Enlightened One.’

“However, at that time, the views of beings in Jambu-dvipa were divided into two: some liked and believed in the Mahayana while others despised it. Then Jala-vahana the merchant’s son at that time stood knee deep in the pool. He purposefully and solemnly cried, ‘I prostrate to Buddha Ratna-shikhin, the Tathagata, the Arhat, the Fully Enlightened One! When the Tathagata Ratna-shikhin was training in bodhisattva deeds, he made this prayer: “At the time of death, whoever in the ten directions hears my name, may they transmigrate from their world and be reborn in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. There, may they be equal among gods.’

“Then Jala-vahana the merchant’s son expounded the Dharma in this way to those beings in the animal state: ‘As this exists, this arises; because this is produced, this is produced. Thus, due to ignorance, karmic formation arises; due to karmic formation, consciousness arises. Due to consciousness, name and form arise; due to name and form, the six sense sources arise. Due to the six sense sources, contact arises; due to contact, feelings arise. Due to feelings, craving arises; due to craving, grasping arises. Due to grasping, existence arises. From existence arise aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, suffering, unease of mind, conflict and strife. In this way, this great aggregate of suffering comes into being. Furthermore, it is this way: with the cessation of ignorance, karmic formation ceases and likewise through to the cessation of this great aggregate of suffering.’

“Having given this Dharma teaching to those beings in the animal state, O noble goddess, at that time, at that moment, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son returned home with his sons Jalambara and Jala-garbha.

“Then, at another time, after feasting and drinking at a great festival, Jalavahana the merchant’s son lay intoxicated on his bed. At that time, at that moment, a great omen occurred: As night came to an end, those ten thousand fish died and were reborn equal among the gods of the Thirty-Three. The moment they were born, they had this thought: ‘By reason of what virtuous act have we been born among the gods of the Thirty-Three?’ The answer arose in their minds: ‘In Jambu-dvipa we were ten thousand fish. While we were in that animal state, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son satisfied us with water and food. We were also given a Dharma teaching on the profound principle of dependent origination. He pronounced to us the name of Ratna-shikhin, the Tathagata, the Arhat, the Fully Enlightened One. By reason of this cause and condition we were born among the gods. We should go to where Jala-vahana the merchant’s son is and make offerings to him.’

“Then, those ten thousand sons of gods disappeared from among the gods of the Thirty- Three and went to the house of Jala-vahana, the merchant’s son. At that time, while Jala-vahana the merchant’s son lay sleeping in his bed, those sons of gods placed ten thousand pearl necklaces at his head. They placed ten thousand pearl necklaces at the soles of his feet. They placed ten thousand pearl necklaces on his right. They place ten thousand pearl necklaces on his left. They rained down a great shower of divine mandarava flowers and maha-mandarava flowers. They played divine cymbals and the sound of these cymbals woke up the people of Jambu-dvipa. Jala-vahana the merchant’s son woke up too. Then those ten thousand sons of gods rose into the sky. Having rained down a shower of divine flowers in other regions of King Sureshvara-prabha’s realm, they went to Atavi-sambhava the forest pool and scattered there a great shower of divine maha-mandarava flowers. Becoming invisible in that spot, they soared back to their divine abodes. There they frolicked in the five sensual objects and enjoyed themselves. Delighting in what pleased them, they experienced great glory and good fortune.

“Then, as day broke in Jambu-dvipa, King Sureshvara-prabha saw these omens and asked his astrologers and chief minister, ‘Why did those signs appear last night?’ They said, ‘May it please Your Majesty to know: In the house of Jala-vahana the merchant’s son there rained down forty thousand pearl necklaces and cascades of divine maha-mandarava flowers.’ Then King Sureshvara-prabha said to the ministers: ‘Sirs, with kind words, summon Jala-vahana the merchant’s son.’ The astrologers and senior ministers went to Jala-vahana’s house and said to Jala-vahana, the merchant’s son, ‘King Sureshvara-prabha has asked for you.’

“Then Jala-vahana the merchant’s son, together with the senior ministers, went to King Sureshvara-prabha. The king asked, ‘Jala-vahana, last night such omens occurred. Do you know the reason such omens appeared?’ Then Jala-vahana the merchant’s son replied to King Sureshvara-prabha: ‘I do, Your Majesty. Certainly they were omens for the death of the ten thousand fish.’ The king said, ‘How do you know?’ Jala-vahana said, ‘Your Majesty, let my son Jalambara go to the pool to see whether those ten thousand fish are alive or dead.’ The king said, ‘So be it.’ Then Jala-vahana the merchant’s son said to Jalambara, ‘Son, go. Check whether the ten thousand fish in the pool Atavi-sambhava are dead or not dead.’ Then the boy Jalambara went quickly to the pool Atavi-sambhava and saw that those ten thousand fish had died. He saw that there had been a great shower of divine maha- mandarava flowers as well. He returned and said to his father: ‘They are dead.’

“As soon as he heard these words from his son Jalambara, Jala-vahana the merchant’s son approached King Sureshvara-prabha and gave this message in detail: ‘Your Majesty, I beg you to know: the ten thousand fish died and were reborn among the gods of the Thirty- Three. It was through their power and my power too that there were such auspicious omens last night. At my home too there rained down forty thousand pearl necklaces and divine maha-mandarava flowers.’ Upon hearing this news, the king was delighted and full of joy.”

Then the Tathagata said this to the noble goddess Bodhisattva-samucchaya: “O noble goddess, if you think that King Sureshvara-prabha at that time, at that moment was another, do not see it like that. Why? Because Danda-pani the Shakyan at that time, at that moment was the king called Sureshvara-prabha. O noble goddess, if you think that the merchant Jatim-dhara at that time, at that moment, was another, do not see it like that. Why? Because King Shuddho-dana at that time, at that moment was the merchant called Jatim-dhara. O noble goddess, if you think that Jala-vahana at that time, at that moment was another, do not see it like that. Why? At that time, at that moment I was the merchant’s son called Jala-vahana. O noble goddess, if you think that his wife Jalambur-garbha at that time, at that moment was another, do not see it like that. Why? Gopa the Shakya daughter at that time, at that moment was his wife called Jalambur-garbha. At that time, at that moment, Rahula was his son called Jalambara. The noble Ananda was his son called Jala-garbha. O noble goddess, if you think that the ten thousand fish were others at that time and at that moment, do not see it like that. Why? At that time, at that moment the ten thousand sons of gods such as Jvala-anantara-tejo-raja were the ten thousand fish who I satisfied with water and excellent food, and to whom I gave the profound Dharma teaching on the principle of dependent origination and pronounced the name of Ratna-shikhin, the Tathagata, the Arhat, the Fully Enlightened One. By reason of that virtuous cause they have come here and received the prophecy of supreme and perfect enlightenment. Furthermore, because they have listened to this Dharma teaching with intense joy, aspiration, supreme joy and reverence, they have all received prophecies and names. O noble goddess, if you think that the forest goddess at that time, at that moment was another, do not see it like that. Why? O noble goddess, at that time, at that moment, you were that forest goddess. 

“On these counts, O noble goddess, let it be known that while revolving in cyclic existence, I have fully ripened many beings towards full awakening and all received the prophecy to supreme and perfect enlightenment.”

This concludes the seventeenth chapter, the Chapter on the Previous Lives of Jala-vahana’s Fish Disciples from the King of Glorious Sutras, the Sublime Golden Light.

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